Thursday, July 28, 2022

July 2022 Challenge: Hats and Other Headgear

Photo from Christy Schwan

There were many excellent poems submitted this month. The judge, Cristina M. R. Norcross, said, “I truly enjoyed reading this selection of poems.  I loved the sheer variety of unique approaches to this theme. . . . I had to make some tough choices. Congratulations to all of the writers who submitted.  This was wonderful work.”

It was interesting to see how many kinds of headgear provided subjects for poems including straw hat, swim cap, pillbox hat, lace veil, stocking cap, homburg, birdcage hat, baseball cap, deer-hunting wool hat with ear flaps, military dress-uniform hat, tasseled graduation hat, hat with college logo, crown, pith helmet, hair towel, felt hat, fedora, scarf, wig, even an (evidently hooded) Batman cape!


Christy Schwan’s poem, “Chosen,” was chosen for first place.


untouched, unworn for years
his hat collection
hangs in his empty office
waits for his arm to reach up
make his choice for the day
lift one off the nailed railing
as he heads for the fields

they no longer jockey for position
no jovial nudges between
seed corn, fertilizer, farm implement

logo-embellished caps
unneeded, unseen
they glimpse the comings and goings
of grand, then great-grand children

choked by layers of dust
grown stiff with disuse
faded to pale shades
of their former glory
they groan as doors
jostle their lineup
open and shut without them

then a child riding on her father’s shoulders
points to a vintage deer trademark
the great-grandmother’s eyes sparkle
gnarled hands reach heavenward
brush off the awakened hat
to a collective sigh of joy

chosen once again

~ Christy Schwan

Norcross said, “I enjoyed the pacing of the poem and the animated sense of life given to the hats described. The lovely turn at the end, of one of the hats being chosen by a child, and how this joy brings a sense of awakening, is so endearing and engaging. These last four lines hold a special magic, ‘gnarled hands reach heavenward / brush off the awakened hat / to a collective sigh of joy / chosen once again.’”



The second-place poem, by Cameron Morse, speaks of an entirely different kind of head covering:


My head is bandaged.
The tan tape holds my head
together, pressing ceramic 
discs to a cleanly 
shaven scalp. That’s part
of the deal, you have to buzz- 
saw away with the Pitbull 
Gold skull shaver every 
smidgeon of stubble. Otherwise, 
the transducer arrays may lift 
and they need full contact 
to produce the electric fields 
that dismay the tumor. It’s humid 
in July in the show me state. 
My scalp sweats below 
the circuit board. The air itself 
is an adhesive no amount of 
hydrogel can salve. Somewhere 
in my right hemisphere, 
a tumor cell is trying to split 
apart and encounters some 
turbulence. My daughter pulls 
on the telephone cord that connects 
me to the device. A loose 
connection in the box clipped 
to my hip gives me a jolt 
through the discs. I cry out 
then google “electroshock therapy” 
I’ve gotten so many shocks I should have 
been cured twelve times by now.  

 ~ Cameron Morse

Norcross explained why she selected “Optune” as a winner: “This poem about a person receiving treatment for a brain tumor is so tender, touching, and carefully written. Wearing bandages as a hat is a unique image, and for the speaker, this is a sign of great courage.  We are immediately drawn into this world through descriptive details and a sense of vulnerability. 


Mary Cohutt’s third-place poem has a different take on hats.

Hats at Random

my father once told me
never trust a man who wears a hat to look taller
he said this as a man walked by
his hat perched precariously on the very top of his head
a stiff breeze
would have sent him on a frosty the snowman sprint
my father never wore a hat
except on the coldest days
lime green and orange, with a look-at-me pompom
a whimsical choice
for a man not known for whimsy
I wish I looked good in hats
I admire women who put on a hat
and their eyes become luminous
their cheeks more hollowed
and their lips part as if to share a delicious secret
in my cellar
on a rusty hook next to my hoe
hangs a wide brimmed straw hat with a work-stained band
I put on this hat
and look out to a world of color
of texture
of delicate butterflies
and buzzing bees
I see my hands in the warmed earth
as they make room for more color
and my own image is forgotten

~ Mary Cohutt

I truly enjoyed the flow of this poem, the detailed descriptions, and the imagery,” says Norcross. “The last 3 lines about ‘hands in warmed earth’ felt so meditative and rich.  The whole poem engages the senses and takes the reader on a journey that has a sense of immediacy.”


Honorable Mentions

To Zee Zahava for a haiku beginning with “sister crow.” The judge’s comments: “I love how creative and unique the image is in this poem of the crow wearing a snowflake as a hat.  The description of an “April beret” is perfect.”

To Charles Kouri for “tussling our flounces.” The judge’s comments: “This poem deserves mention just for the language itself, the musicality of it and the very visual nature of the poem.  I loved the word play in this one, the alliteration and the juxtaposition of words.  It is an enticing read.”



Mary Cohutt is an information specialist for her local Council on Aging. She grew up in a family with 12 children. She has two adult children and two grandchildren. Her favorite activities include reading, painting and gardening.

Charles Kouri is playwright, lyricist and producer of two full-length musicals, REBEL and 24WORDS, which feature stories and original songs inspired by the Equal Rights Movement. He recently began writing poetry and is publishing 304-Days-With-3-Days-Missing, a series of 301 poems written during the pandemic. 

Cameron Morse (he, him) is Senior Reviews editor at Harbor Review and the author of eight collections of poetry. His first collection, Fall Risk, won Glass Lyre Press’s 2018 Best Book Award. His book of unrhymed sonnets, Sonnetizer, is forthcoming from Kelsay Books. He holds an MFA from the University of Kansas City-Missouri and lives in Independence, Missouri, with his wife Lili and three children. For more information, check out his Facebook page or website.    

Cristina M. R. Norcross lives in Southeast Wisconsin and is the editor of the online poetry journal, Blue Heron Review.  Author of 9 poetry collections, a multiple Pushcart Prize nominee, and an Eric Hoffer Book Award nominee, her most recent books are The Sound of a Collective Pulse (Kelsay Books, 2021) and Beauty in the Broken Places (Kelsay Books, 2019).  Cristina’s work appears in:Visual VerseYour Daily PoemPoetry HallVerse-VirtualThe Ekphrastic Review, and Pirene’s Fountain, among others.  Her work also appears in numerous print anthologies.  Cristina has helped organize community art/poetry projects, has led writing workshops, and has hosted many readings.  She is the host of the Facebook writing prompt group, Connection and Creativity in Challenging Times and is the co-founder of Random Acts of Poetry & Art Day.  Find out more about this author at:

Christy Schwan is a native Hoosier author/poet living in Wisconsin. She's a rockhound, wild berry picker, wildflower seeker, astronomy studier, and quiet sports lover of kayaking, canoeing, snowshoeing and loon spotting. Her work has been published in Chicken Soup for the Soul, Museletter, Ariel Anthology, 8142 Review, 2022 Wisconsin Poet's Calendar, and Bramble Lit Mag.

Zee Zahava lives in Ithaca, New York.






Friday, July 1, 2022

July 2022 Poetry Challenge: Hats and Other Headgear

The Labours of the Months: June
Venetian, date unknown
National Gallery of Art, London

You can often tell a lot about people by what they wear—or don’t wear—on their heads. A garden hat, a straw hat, a fancy hat sporting flowers or feathers, a cowboy hat, a homburg, a nun’s veil, a hijab, a yarmulke, a motorcycle helmet, the hood of a jacket or shirt, an infinity scarf. The options are almost endless. The head covering may reflect a faith tradition, make a fashion statement, reflect a political viewpoint, or protect the wearer from sun or cold. Hats worn by loved ones may have special significance.

 “Garden Hat” is one of the first poems Merle Hazard wrote after the death of her husband.

Garden Hat

I washed your garden hat this week;
the silly, floppy brimmed
canvas topper you wore
to shade your chrome dome.

I found your lid on the gas grill
where you tossed it
that last Saturday.

I wore that hat all summer.
I suppose I thought
it might impart your green thumb
as I struggled with the weeds,
the acrid smelling spray,
hoping the poison was not killing
one of your prize plants.

I wore it when I mowed the lawn
and fought the prickly thistles,
when I picked the dead geranium heads.

It was grimy with a mix
of your sweat and mine. I soaked it
as you once did, in bleach and hot water,
sudsed it, rinsed and blocked it dry.

I packed up some of your clothes 
for Goodwill. I put the garden hat
in the bag, but it refused to go. 

~ Merle Hazard

Merle Hazard retains copyright on her poem.


A very different kind of head covering appears in the following poem, one I dedicated to my granddaughter.


Baseball Caps
            For Barb

Every morning for years—
whatever the season—
you pulled on a baseball cap
as you went out the door.
Where are those visored caps now?

Who told you it's not a girl thing,
not who you should want to be?
Was it that same girl who said
when you get to middle school
you can't have one hair
out of place, the one
who says your jeans are in style
only with designer labels,
that guys don't like girls
who are smart and do well?

Was it the same girl
who repeated all the other lies
told to keep us in place?
Don’t listen to her!

~ Wilda Morris

“Baseball Caps” was published by Puffin Circus, 2:3 (March 2011).


Some other poems on hats and other head coverings:

“My Father’s Hat,” by Judith Tullis,

“Death of the Hat,” by Billy Collins,

“When Polly Buys a Hat,” by E. Hill,

“The List of Famous Hats,” by James Tate,

“The Quangle Wangle’s Hat,” by Edward Lear,

Hats,” by Glenis Redmond,

“Candle Hat,” by Billy Collins,

“My Father’s Hats,” by Mark Irwin,

“A Cowboy’s Hat,” by  Baxter Black,

“The Cat in the Hat,” by Doctor Suess,

“My Hijab: A Response to Eve Enslers’ ‘My Short Skirt,’” by Vanessa McGreevy,

“The Bridal Veil,” by Alice Cary,


The July Challenge:

The challenge for this month is a poem about a hat or other head covering. Your poem may be literal or metaphoric, serious or humorous. Note that we will not accept any poems denigrating other person's religion or ethnicity. Note that the blog format does not accommodate shaped poems or long lines; if a poem has long lines, they are used, they have to be broken in two, with the second part indented (as in the poem “Lilith,” one of the May 2018 winners), or the post has to use small print. Note, too, that long poems are at a disadvantage.

Poems could be disqualified if the guidelines are not followed.

1-Title your poem unless it is in a form that discourages titles.


3-Put your submission in this order:
Your poem
Publication data if your poem was previously published
Your name
A brief third-person bio
Your email address – it saves me a lot of work if you put your email address at the end of your submission.

4-Please keep the poem on the left margin (standard 1” margin). Do not put any part of your submission on a colored background. No colored type. Do not use a fancy font and do not use a header or footer.

5-You may submit a published poem if you retain copyright, but please include publication data. This applies to poems published in books, journals, newspapers, or on the Internet. Poems already used on this blog are not eligible to win, but the poets may submit a different poem.

6-The deadline is July 15. Poems submitted after the deadline will not be considered. There is no charge to enter, so there are no monetary rewards. Winners are published on this blog.

7-Please don’t stray too from “family-friendly” language (some children and teens read this blog).

8- No simultaneous submissions, please. You should know by the end of the month whether or not your poem will be published.

9-The poet retains copyright on each poem. If a previously unpublished poem wins and is published elsewhere later, please give credit to this blog. I do not register copyright with the US copyright office, but by US law, the copyright belongs to the writer unless the writer assigns it to someone else.

10-Decision of the judge or judges is final.

11-If the same poet wins three months in a row (which has not happened thus far), he or she will be asked not to submit the following two months.

12-Send one poem only.

How to Submit Your Poem:

1-Send your poem to wildamorris4[at]gmail[dot]com (substitute the @ sign for “at” and a . for “dot”). The poem must respond in some way to the specific challenge for the month.

2-Put “July Poetry Challenge Submission” FOLLOWED BY YOUR NAME in the subject line of your email. 

3-Submission of a poem gives permission for the poem to be posted on the blog if it is a winner, so be sure that you put your name exactly as you would like it to appear if you do win at the end of the poem.

4-Poems may be pasted into an email or sent as an attachment or both (Doc, Docx, rich text or plain text; no pdf files, please). Please do not indent the poem or center it on the page. It helps if you submit the poem in the format used on the blog (Title and poem left-justified; title in bold (not all capital letters); your name at the bottom of the poem).  Put everything in the order listed above.

6-Also, please do not use multiple spaces instead of punctuation in the middle of lines. I have no problem with poets using that technique (I sometimes do it myself). However, I have difficulty getting the blog to accept and maintain extra spaces.

Poems shorter than 40 lines are preferred.



Merle Hazard is a native of Syracuse, New York. She learned to write poetry in Wisconsin, where she lived for 22 years. She now lives in Macon, Georgia, near some of her family. She retired from a career in nursing, including working with Hospice, both at the bedside and in management. She has written poetry for many years and enjoys reading the poetry of others. In her spare time, she walks, plays bridge and Rummikub, dines with friends, is involved with her church, and takes senior classes at Wesleyan College “to keep my mind busy.”

Wilda Morris, Workshop Chair of Poets and Patrons of Chicago and a past President of the Illinois State Poetry Society, has published numerous poems in anthologies, webzines, and print publications, including The Ocotillo Review, Rockford Review, Turtle Island Quarterly, Modern Haiku, and Journal of Modern Poetry. She has won awards for formal and free verse and haiku, including the 2019 Founders’ Award from the National Federation of State Poetry Societies. She has published two books of poetry, Szechwan Shrimp and Fortune Cookies: Poems from a Chinese Restaurant (RWG Press) and Pequod Poems: Gamming with Moby-Dick (Kelsay Boks). Her poetry blog at features a monthly poetry contest.



© Wilda Morris